NASHVILLE, Tenn. —** The Titans cleaned out their lockers at Saint Thomas Sports Park and went their separate ways on Monday, a day after their season came to an end.
The Titans finished 9-7, a year after posting a 3-13 mark. It matched the largest single-season turnaround in franchise history. But the Titans finished second in the AFC South behind the Houston Texans.
"It is a happy and a sad feeling,'' linebacker Avery Williamson said. "We know we made a lot of improvement, but we didn't take advantage of the opportunity. But it's like night and day from my first two years here. We now know how to win."
After a 1-3 start, the Titans ended the season with wins in eight of their final 12 games.
The Titans posted wins over six teams with winning records, and five teams headed to the playoffs -- the Chiefs (12-4) Dolphins (10-6), Packers (10-6), Lions (9-7) and Texans (9-7). They also beat the Broncos (9-7), the defending Super Bowl champs.
The team's strength of victory percentage is higher than 11 of the 12 teams in the playoffs (only KC is higher).
The Titans learned to win close games, going 4-0 in games decided by three points or less. The Titans were 2-7 in those games over the last two years.
The Titans also proved to be a resilient team, going 6-1 in games following a loss.
Still, players kicked themselves for a missed opportunity. The Titans lost to the Jaguars in Week 16, and it ended up costing them in the end.
A look at some of the other comments from players on Monday:
Linebacker Brian Orakpo: "It makes us hungry for more. It was a good season, and we did a lot of great things and can take a lot of positives. It is something to build on. We have a blueprint, we have a foundation we are going to build off of and we are going to use it … as motivation for next season. We are definitely hungry for more."
Running back DeMarco Murray:** "This is a hard league to win games in. We all know this is a bottom-line business, and at the end of the day wins, that's all that matters and playoff berths are all that matter. We know we had an opportunity to get into the playoffs and we didn't finish the game in Jacksonville the way that we wanted to. So we have to live with that for now and find a way to get over the hump next year."
Tackle Taylor Lewan: "I think the best thing Mike Mularkey did is say he was going to do something and then he did it. He said we were going to run the ball, and we ran the ball. He just pushed us to be exactly what he said he said we were going to be. He made a promise and he kept it and in a league like this … to have that is pretty refreshing."
Cornerback Jason McCourty: "When there's other teams playing and you are not playing, it hurts. It will hurt next week watching the playoff games, knowing this year you had a great opportunity and a great chance to actually be one of those teams lining up and to try and play (in the playoffs) so that will hurt. But I think there are 20 teams having these same last media interviews and talking about recapping the season, so it is a part of it. I think this year was a step of growth for this team and I think moving forward there will be more success in the future."
Tackle Jack Conklin: "I think we had a goal in mind coming in that we were going to pound people and be a physical team, and I think now the league knows what we are capable of."
A day after their season-ending victory against the Texans, Titans players clear out their lockers at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Gary Glenn)